Mortgage Applications Post Surprising Rise, Loan Rate Moves Mixed

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The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) released its weekly report on mortgage applications Wednesday morning, noting an increase of 5.5% in the group’s seasonally adjusted composite index for the week ending November 23, including an adjustment for the Thanksgiving holiday. Mortgage interest rates dropped on two of five types of loans the MBA tracks.

On an unadjusted basis, the MBA’s composite index fell by 29% week over week. The seasonally adjusted purchase index increased by 9% compared with the week ended November 16. The unadjusted purchase index dropped by 28% for the week and was 2% higher year over year.

Mortgage loan rates for top-tier remained unchanged last week from a prior week’s ending value of 4.94% for a 30-year fixed-rate loan, according to Mortgage News Daily. As of Tuesday night, top-tier borrowers are still looking at a rate of 4.94%. The yield on a 10-year U.S. Treasury note was also flat week over week at 3.06% last night. A year ago the 10-year note yielded 2.32%.

On Tuesday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that it will lift the loan limit in 2019 on a 30-year, fixed-rate, conventional mortgage from $453,100 to $484,350. Recognizing that some areas have higher median home prices, the FHFA has set a ceiling of $726,520 in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Mike Fratantoni, the MBA’s chief economist, commented:

After several weeks of market volatility, 30-year fixed mortgage rates decreased four basis points to 5.12 percent last week. Homebuyers responded, with purchase applications 1.7 percent higher than a year ago, and after adjusting for the Thanksgiving holiday, they increased almost 9 percent from the previous week. The rise in purchase activity was led by conventional purchase applications, which surged almost 12 percent, while government purchases were essentially unchanged over the week. This also pushed the average loan size for purchase applications higher, which likely meant there were fewer first-time homebuyers in the market last week.

The MBA’s refinance index rose by 1% week over week, and the percentage of all new applications that were seeking refinancing decreased from 38.5% to 37.9%.

Adjustable rate mortgage loans accounted for 7.9% of all applications, up 0.6 points compared with the prior week.

According to the MBA, last week’s average mortgage loan rate for a conforming 30-year fixed-rate mortgage slipped from 5.16% to 5.12%. The rate for a jumbo 30-year fixed-rate mortgage remained unchanged at 4.88%. The average interest rate for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage was also unchanged at 4.53%.

The contract interest rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage loan increased from 4.24% to 4.29%. Rates on a 30-year FHA-backed fixed-rate loan rose from 5.08% to 5.11%.